A look into the making of a micro-distillery
Many years ago, Keppen Kettering, RoehrSchmitt Architecture's interior designer and resident Revit junky, came across one of those brew-your-own-beer kits on sale. She and her husband, Kyle, already really liked craft beer, so they picked up a kit and the adventure into DIY beverages was born. Years, recipes, and a storage-room-littered-with-gear later, Kyle was still enjoying his delightful hobby--and Keppen was still enjoying being the taste tester. So when a friend and former co-worker came over for an afternoon at the pool and pitched a micro-distillery idea, they couldn’t get it out of their heads.
Thanks to the Surly bill passed in 2011, the craft beer biz was starting to boom in Minnesota. But not much was being done with craft spirits. That was until a similar bill was passed for distilleries 2014. Distilleries were now allowed to operate a cocktail room, along with a new provision that lowered the licensing fee significantly. The game had been changed.
But starting a distillery is complicated. So many laws! So many codes! So much regulation! Kyle and his business partners, Chis Palmisano and Brian Idelkope, spent a year on research and business planning, coming to the conclusion that starting a distillery was not only possible for them, but smart.
In 2015 the three friends formed a partnership and leased a commercial space in St. Louis Park. It didn’t take them much time to realize a cocktail room was definitely needed, and so they addressed the local zoning laws to make it all possible.
With more than a decade of experience providing commercial architectural and interior design services in a wide variety of project types, Keppen took the ideas and requirements of the partners and turned them into a real (and code compliant) thing. She collaborated with the partners to review idea boards, read up on local regulations, and brainstorm countless ideas.
Keppen’s most important role was guiding the team through the entire design and construction process.
Then she got to work on space planning, construction documentation and detailing, code compliance hurdles, furniture choices, color and materials selections. Keppen’s most important role was guiding the team through the entire design and construction process. This was no easy task for an already busy parent of a toddler with a full-time day job. To top it off, she was pregnant with their second child. Luckily, the RoehrSchmitt partners, Chris and Michael, were very supportive, lent an ear, and gave great advice whenever the inevitable hiccups arose.
The biggest challenge was the size of the cocktail room they were allowed to create. The law is written to only allow the bar space to be 25% of the total distillery, which meant a maximum of 600 square feet for the cocktail room. A glass wall separates the cocktail room from the production side, overcoming any feelings of a cramped space. It also turned out to be our biggest and best design move, offering a fully immersive experience. Guests can enjoy drinks inside the distillery, not just adjacent to one.
The space came to life with the help of some incredibly talented partners. Chris Hale and Sheila Mozayeny of SpaceCraft built out most of the space including the wood bar with custom concrete countertops, the stacked wood tiles on the walls (a Chris Hale invention), the wood bench that spans the length of the cocktail room, and the amazing copper chandelier.
Heather Doyle from the Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center created the ‘jewelry’ elements in the space. She fabricated the large gears set into the concrete tops and created the beautiful copper letters inset in the front of the bar.
The gorgeous sign that shimmers over the entry is by southeast Minneapolis metal fabricator and artist George Hindley. The copper wing pattern was cut by hand, the lettering was completed using a CNC laser. The finished sign sits an impressive 4’ wide by 6’ tall.
Keppen’s favorite design element is the color-changing LED lights that wash the sparkling stills behind the glass walls. It adds a real wow-factor to the space that highlights the heart of the business in a special way.
From the start, a high-performing, flexible space that spoke to the main values of the business was the goal. They wanted something smart, hardworking, and not at all stuffy or pretentious. Copperwing should be a place guests could grab a drink before a special night out, or stop in wearing jeans and a T-shirt after a crazy day. The space is a happy mix of industrial functionality and sophisticated warm touches.
People have taken notice – this year Copperwing was awarded City Pages Best Distillery of 2018.